Friday, January 29, 2010

A lot of life

Somtimes I feel like I'm completely surrounded by living things here. I woke up a couple of times in the night last night to hear the stray cat and kittens that live in my ceiling playing noisily and a weird sound that I could only assume was a monkey mating call of some kind...maybe a bush baby? Not sure. Then there's the neighbor's dog Dusty who sometimes gets into fights with the other neighbor's dog, Blacky. Or the cats that belong to the owner of Blacky. One of them always finds its way inside my house and would spend hours if I'd let it rubbing its sides back and forth along my legs.

Geckos or small lizards scurrying along the wall that supposedly eat some of the bugs in the house. And there is the unfortunate lizard that occasionally finds itself on the inner side of the hinges just before the door slams...smush. Some of the lizards outside are quite beautiful with green bodies and black heads with white spots, or blue-green bodies and a beautiful orange head.

Then there are the insects. The occasional roach that I try to ignore and hope goes away. The small spider that I always see when I lock the handle on my outer metal gate. The long legged spiders in the corners trying to trap ants. The trains of ants marching toward the destination of anything sweet. Medium size ants, big ants, and tiny sugar ants that find there way into anything unsealed. Black ants on my porch that seem to confuse my finger-nail clippings for food crumbs because they pick them up and take them home. I love to watch one line of ants moving along in one direction with one ant that is moving in the wrong direction. They have a head-on collision every two seconds, yet they seem to just stop short of bashing their heads together as if they were purposefully doing it to give one another a quick greeting before they continue their busy search for the sweetness.

During the rainy season, the mosquitos come out in full force and I invent new ways of killing them. Doom, the death knell of all insects in an aerosol spray can, is great for a large gathering of them near their dark refuge of my black bookcase. The classic move: a round of applause. The wrestlers' hand slam that knocks them out of their sense on to the ground with just enough time to squash them with my foot. And then the experimental 'grasping at the wind' where I hope that they will end up in my clenched fist.

Every morning I get to hear the sound of many, many birds. When I first arrived I remember thinking that they are kind of loud! But now I've become used to it. My favorite one makes a low-pitched sound a little higher than when you blow across an empty glass bottle. The sound comes out once, twice, and then many times in a row like when you drop a basketball on the court and let it bounce until it stops.

Then there are the monkeys around the area. Gray territorial ones, endangered black collobus monkeys with white tufts of hair extending from near their armpits, small, light colored, turquoise balled ones, and large, stocky, confident baboons sometimes with their young offspring clinging to their mother's stomach underneath looking like what we all imagine a demon to look like - big head, small body, large ears, beady eyes, and sharp fangs.

As long as we are outside, there are the cows grazing with their herdsmen and crossing the roads. The goats are all over, some tied others running loose, some males chasing the females for a quick sexual encounter, and one in particular that I saw itching it's chin on the edge of the road looking suicidal, as if it wanted me to run over its head.

Even though the mosquitos terrorize my skin, the ants ruin my food, and the monkey steals my spaghetti noodles from my house and a few pieces of bread from my grocery bag in the back of the car, that I was worried that the cat in my ceiling was a rat and relieved that the cat was a cat, and it seems that the goats are sometimes trying to get hit by my car, reflecting on these things make me grateful for being surrounded by so much life.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tides of the Heart

I am transitioning out of Kenya for the next 4 months.

What? Did you say you are leaving Kenya? That’s right. I’m not exactly getting on a plane though. Bus, to be more precise. In early February I’m bussing it to Morogoro, Tanzania where I will spend the next four months in classes learning to understand and speak Swahili. I’ve been looking forward to this time where I can completely focus on this one thing rather than juggling lots of other studies and ministry. I’m excited about what the Lord has for me in Tanzania but at the same time life here continues to lead me in a perpetual state of transition. I’ve spent a little over four months here in Kenya, learning, adjusting, breaking down, building up - being reminded of God’s goodness. Now I’m going to go to another country to do the same I suppose. Ni bahati yangu (It’s my luck) that I am staying in E. Africa. It’s not exactly the huge jump in cultures that it was from America to Kenya.

High Tide, Low Tide:
This month has been hard when it comes to culture. They say people tend to get hit with culture shock again at 3 months and 6 months. I guess mine came a little late. I was able to go to Dubai to spend Christmas with some really great friends. I had a blast with my friends and really enjoyed seeing Oman and the Emirates. When I came home though I got hit with it. Empty apartment - no Dustin. No friends that I’ve been close with for the last 5 years like the ones I just visited. Ughh. Loneliness. After a week of battling through that, I felt much better. I had a great week after that. Then….Ughh, loneliness, unmotivated, bleh. Is this depression? Man, it feels like I’m depressed! A week later. Huh, I feel better now.

A man alone in culture shock is like the tides of the sea. One minute he’s strong in his own strength, self-confident, out conquering the land, sand castles, and the tourists who want to remain dry. The next minute he’s weak, receded, and rather static.
This is how I’ve felt this last month. Up. Down. High tide. Low tide. Tossed helplessly by the moon’s gravitational pull of self reliance, culture shock, and loneliness. Unless…

James 1:5-8
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Ask God. Ask God for wisdom. Ask God for wisdom in faith, no doubting. Ask God for wisdom, wisdom that would allow you to see all the wonderful and beautiful things of Him that obliterates all the things you feel you lack and are in desperate need of. To be grateful, rejoicing in His goodness, daily mercy, and provision. Instead of setting your mind and heart on your circumstances, divert both mind and heart to God’s deeds, works, and wonders and ask yourself, “The God who did these things, can he be trusted? Can I trust this mighty God with my own circumstances, my own heart, my own life?” In light of his works, all creation cries out a resounding and confident “YES!”

Psalm 77:11-15
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

This has helped me in many ways. Focusing on what I believe I need and lack gets my heart into a lot of trouble. Focusing on God and His goodness and glory does not fulfill what is lacking but instead causes it to recede like the tide of the ocean. And instead of being static, unmotivated, still, and depressed, I am at peace with God in the low tide.